Mixing colours together to produce new ones sounds like an arty technique, but here researchers used genetic engineering to create a multi-coloured palette in the developing brain. Neurons [nerve cells] inside fruit fly brains were given artificial genes producing stochastic [random] amounts of green, red and blue fluorescent proteins. Pictured under a high-powered microscope, the neurons are 'painted' with random mixtures of these primary colours – a neuron producing more red and blue looks purple compared to a green-producing neighbour. As each neuron is labelled with a different colour their overall patterns can be untangled. These panels show four different types of neuron in the brain’s visual system – their patterns are different, which is not too surprising. Intriguingly though, certain types of neurons intertwine like baskets (bottom two brains), while others are arranged in neat tiles (top brains), giving a colourful new picture of how the brain’s circuitry develops.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.